27 February 2006

i cannot begin to wonder why you had to tell me this

I am chronically tired in law school. Maybe that's just the nature of the game. It was in college, but then I graduated and went off to other things and got enough sleep. I feel like I could get enough sleep in law school if I did nothing but school and did it well and steadily, but I don't. I have fun. I study, but not always enough ahead of time. I talk to people. I babysit for the kiddos.

Ah yes, the kiddos. I was babysitting one day when the kiddos had a playdate. The other mom and the other little boy came over. The boys were playing and we were chatting. Some moms refuse to converse with nannies, but this one is nice and anyway I get some exceptions once they find out that I'm in grad school and said grad school is law school at a fairly well-known place where, perhaps, their overworked lawyer husbands went. Not enough exceptions to get asked to their coffee sessions while the kids are at school, which I'm sure I would not want to participate in anyway because they are all about who bought a townhouse where and what kindergartens they are applying to and where to find a new nanny and other particularly New York too-much-money topics of conversation, but enough exceptions to be tolerable to chat with when there are no other moms around. But Nice Mom talks to me anyway because, you know, she's nice. So Nice Mom and I were talking about the busy-ness of life and she said, "I kept thinking it would get slower or easier, but it just doesn't." I looked at her in complete disbelief. This woman, in one sentence, destroyed all my hopes for a better tomorrow. I was shaken. Very shaken. Alarmingly shaken.

But then I took heart and thought to myself, "I'll move back to Africa and it will all be okay." After all, if there is no power, you just end up going to bed at 9 pm, right? And you get hours and hours of beautiful sleep. I'm sure I did that at least, say, four times in two years in Rwanda. We shall ignore the unfortunate fact that more and more of Africa has reliable power. NOT IMPORTANT. (And if this is just me lying to myself and Africa will be just as bad, please just leave me to my delusions. We all need some of them to stay sane.)

Meanwhile, at occupational therapy today, where I got new wrist braces fitted because the pain is not going away and I daily want to gnaw my arms off at the elbows (the fact that I don't give up typing isn't helping, of course), the OT kept saying, "RELAX your arm. RELAX your palm." Which I was incapable of doing. Why does no one warn you that the side effects of law school include a chronically furrowed brow and arms that actually will not go limp?

Oh, and yesterday, in perhaps the last straw, someone (not a law student) told me that he doesn't like hypothetical questions. Is that even possible? Is that allowed? I don't know if I can associate with people who don't do hypothetical questions.

I love the word "shall." It's so much more pleasant than "will."

26 February 2006

another you know how

You know how you frantically finish a brief on the 14th Amendment and barely barely finish it and upload it to the class website (ha! technology!) one minute before the deadline and then look around the site and wonder, "Hm. Where are the other briefs for this case?" and there are none and then you look at the main page and realize that they weren't due for another five hours but yours is already uploaded and it only, upon re-reading, has one tiny typo, so you just don't bother with changing it? Yep. Story of my life.

Since in faithfulness to the title of the blog I try to add Africa every now and again (you know you want it), I shall mention that the Worst Day of My Life, which was 9 August 2004, as I was trying to get on my flight out of Rwanda, was very similar to the story of my life, only all in one day. After getting fake money in exchange for the truck and not sleeping and missing the meeting with the lawyer and the laptop finally dying and the power going out so I couldn't print the contract for the truck and getting to the airport 30 minutes before departure and the airline trying to make me pay $900 for excess baggage (note that I did not possess $900) and arguing about it with the country director of Kenya Airways and the power going out again in the middle of the conversation, cutting us off and getting on the plane at the exact time we were supposed to be taking off and the pilot announcing that we were delayed because of a passenger as everyone stared at me and crying against the window as the plane took off, leaving behind a country that I had loved and called home for two years and not knowing when I would be back, I ended up at the Intercontinental in Nairobi, paid for by Kenya Airways (because the overnight layover was their fault) and there was no feeling in the world like calling my sister to say happy birthday and going to bed in the crisp white sheets.

The thing is, as I'm learning finally, well into adulthood (okay, 8 years into adulthood): things are probably going to work out. Somehow. Generally with little to no help from me. I just tend to contribute to the chaos. I blunder through life. I'm still not sure how I made it into or to law school - I wasn't sure that I had completed the applications until I started getting cards in the mail. And I've barely met every deadline for financial aid and even for telling the school I was coming. Still, it works out. I even manage to be relatively capable and professional much of the time.

P.S. I love run-on sentences. I'm so glad my English teachers can't see me now.

25 February 2006

someone else does my laundry and i hate it

Okay, doing laundry can be a pain, but I like it. I like the smells and the dryer sheets and the forced inaction while it whirls and the burying your face in the fresh warm clothes and the folding and the organizing. But I can't do it myself anymore.

Other people have done my laundry before, like Harris when I was really young and my mom for years. And in Rwanda I hired Epiphanie to do it because I did it once by hand in the bathtub and trust me, once by hand was enough. Ow.

Now I have been rendered incapable of doing my own laundry by the heaviness of the bag and the number of stairs and the length of the two blocks between here and the laundromat. My hands just hurt too much. I can't carry things in my hands like that. It kills the golf elbow.

(Speaking of which, I have completely neglected to post a photo of what my arm braces look like. It's coming, sometime soon. And it is NOT SEXY. Not at all. Do not expect anything exciting. I look, frankly, gimpy. And I can't do all the stuff in water aerobics because the arm exercises exacerbate the pain and this woman a few weeks ago looked at me with great sympathy and said, "Do you have a disability?" YES, obviously! I can't move my arms! I can't do my own laundry! But it's not always so obvious. I feel like a dork when, apparently perfectly healthy, I have to wait for the elevator at the airport because I can't carry my suitcase up the stairs. I always used to be the strong one bounding up the stairs. Stupid law school, breaking my nerves. Anyway.)

So I called a laundry place that does pickup and delivery and they came to pick it up Friday and I asked the guy when it would be back and he said "Tomorrow after four" and I believed him, naturally, so I made sure I was at home at four. But then it didn't come, so at about 5:15 I tried to call, only to discover that they close at 5 on Saturday and are closed Sunday. My clothes are held hostage at the laundromat until Monday. Not only that, but my school ID was in the pocket of my sweatshirt, so I have been begging profusely to get into things like the library, rather than just scanning the little plastic thing and buzzing on through. Lesson to self: do your own laundry. Except I can't. Really. Gimpy arms. You never realize how much you use your hands until you don't have them. Some days I try to use them and then they hurt so much that I want to gnaw them off above the elbows. Lovely visual image, I know.

23 February 2006

22 February 2006

Mental Block

21 February 2006

and just for fun

[photo removed]

Angelina and I, c. (okay, exactly) 4 Feb 2004, back at KGL in Rwanda after various travels. We had just been delayed in Nairobi because the Rwandair Express plane had, apparently, "swallowed a bird" and needed repairs. No one was there to pick either of us up, of course. She called Mannu and we were waiting for him.

I'm wearing the same shirt today, by the way. It's still one of my favorites, although now all soft and cuddly and lighter colored and with holes in the sleeves.

oh, i thought of something

Something to blog about, I mean, since I know that my readers are waiting on tenterhooks. Whatever those are. If I even spelled them right.

In the olden days, when we flew back and forth to Liberia, if I recall correctly, we flew TO Africa during the day and FROM Africa at night. Flying to Rwanda, though, requires an extra flight. So it looks something like: New York - Amsterdam - Nairobi - Kigali. The result is two consecutive overnight flights (New York - Amsterdam and Amsterdam - Nairobi) and then a horrible, exhausted layover in Nairobi and then a short little flight up over Lake Victoria to Kigali. It's miserable and every time I do it I vow never to do it again - I vow to get to Nairobi earlier and stay overnight there before flying to Rwanda. I was once so tired after that journey that I fell asleep at my hotel and in the middle of the sleep I received a phone call which I still cannot remember, although my phone showed that I answered it. I must have talked. I just don't remember talking. I was that tired.

But there is one moment which makes the whole trip worthwhile. It is not the moment when the plane crosses the northern coast of Africa, leaving the Mediterranean behind. It is not the moment of first feeling the air of Africa through the open windows in Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi. It is not the moment when the announcement is made for the flight to Kigali. It is not the moment of landing in Rwanda. It is not even the moment of stepping out of the plane on the hill over Kigali. No, the moment that makes worthwhile two overnight flights in a row is the moment, somewhere over Southern Sudan or Northern Kenya, above the early morning clouds covering the Rift Valley, when the sun rises on my first day back in Africa. In that moment, I can scarcely stay still in my seat.

still moment

I got distracted this weekend by all the Africa blogs. There are people out there who are in Africa right now. I'm jealous. Jealous. There are 54 countries in Africa. One guy is in Lesotho. I could be in Lesotho. I could, I could!

Instead, I am in New York writing a brief about the 14th Amendment and Equal Protection. Or not writing it and reading Africa blogs instead.

I'm feeling rather swirl-headed right now; too much to think about, but nothing clear enough to put on the blog.

In the middle of it all, at lunch-time today, with a brief due tomorrow and class all afternoon today and the worry floating around in my head that I was supposed to be at jury duty today in Michigan and had forgotten to get out of it, I went to a gelateria, which was empty of customers, and got coconut gelato and sat for a while and ate it slowly and breathed slowly. It was nice.

19 February 2006

live 8 and africa aid

I read a lot of Africa blogs. Too many, probably. From one of them, I was connected to this article: The West Can't Save Africa, by a man who recently came to speak to one of my classes about law and development.

I have to admit that I look at all the Africa talk in the past year with some hesitation. I'm torn, because I want the world to know how amazing Africa is and hopefully eliminate some of the "You're coming from AFRICA? Aren't they all terrorists over there?" that I've gotten in the Detroit Airport many a time, but I can sometimes get a little possessive, in the manner of the long-term expatriate. The longer you live in a place, the more irritating it gets when a two-monther (or a two-weeker) makes blanket statements about that place. And I know that Africa is more than starvation and death.

Africa is a little girl taking my hand as I walk along the lake and holding it for nearly a mile before giggling and running back in the other direction.

Africa is a boy holding the horns of a cow in the water as the herd swims from an island to the mainland and when he sees me taking one hand off the horn to wave and shout to me.

Africa is waking in the night to darkness so complete that I cannot see my hand when I wave it before my face, but still feeling safe.

Africa is spending an hour trying to find the glow of the volcano with the binoculars, only to discover that we were looking in the wrong place.

Africa is sitting outside at the Auberge Beausejour thinking, "This is the temperature at which life was meant to be lived."

Africa is slip-sliding up a hill for an hour to sit with an old man and his grandchildren waiting for the rain to stop, being fed roasted corn and given a basket full of glowing red fruit like giant rubies, and then slip-sliding back down.

Africa is looking around every day and thinking, "I have never been in a more beautiful place."

Africa is going to the market every Friday with a bunch of small bills (100 francs Rwandaise = ~20 cents) and passing them out to young boys with instructions on what to buy and having every product brought to you at a fair price except the ones that result in "Maracuja - non" (with a waggling finger) and the money handed back intact.

Africa is trying to remember that there are abnormally, insanely huge speedbumps in every Ugandan town before you hit them at 80 Km per hour while driving to Kampala.

Africa is a crowded dalla-dalla in which you have four bags on your lap and then someone passes you her baby as she tries to squeeze onto the ledge of the open sliding door, clinging to the roof.

I've never managed to believe that I could save Africa, or even a small part of it. I am too awed by too many people I know in Africa to think that I could make the difference. The truth is that after twelve years there and fourteen here, I am happier in Africa. The US bores me a lot of the time, although somehow I manage to continue boring all of you on this blog with the details of life in NYC. You know how I complained that I never learned to drive until Rwanda? I feel that way about a lot of things. And yes, that is a privileged way to live. It is a great luxury to feel that you learn life better in a place not your own and to be able to go to the other place and live there. But there it is.

As an African friend of mine once said to another friend, "Of course you'll be back. This is a brilliant continent."

the weather today:


18 February 2006

you know how

sometimes you get amazing hot chocolate for Christmas from the people you babysit for and you love it so much (often eating it plain rather than as actual hot chocolate) that when the container is gone you trek your way over to the store (the one single store in the city) to buy more of it and when you get it home you taste it and it's NOT THE SAME THING so you go back to the one single store in the city and while you are standing in line you hear the salesperson going on and on about how "you would never bring a product back to the supermarket because it isn't crispy enough, so why do people bring things back here?" and you feel really sheepish but not sheepish enough to forego the over $20 that you just spent on hot chocolate that was not actually dark chocolate although it said it was on the box and so you sheepishly explain to her that you are there because your hot chocolate tastes wrong and she looks at you irritatedly but the other salesperson is really nice and gives you a sample of the dark stuff and you tell her "yes, that's what the last box tasted like but this one is not the same, it's sweeter and not as rich" and she gives you a new box and takes your phone number so that the owner can check in with you and the other woman still looks at you as if you have ruined her entire day and then as you are about to leave you hear the people who just came in saying "we bought this box yesterday and it just doesn't have the rich flavor that it usually has" and you feel finally vindicated because IT'S NOT JUST YOU?

Or maybe that just happens to me...

The new box is perfect.

Except that on the way home EVERY PERSON I PASSED knocked into the bag of hot chocolate that I was holding in my hand and/or into my hand. Apparently this is one of my I-am-invisible-please-run-into-me days.

17 February 2006

big gap

I don't seem to have anything to say this week.

Kiddo #2 and both parents were sick, so I spent a great deal of time rocking a feverish child and escaping the house with Kiddo #1 in the hopes that the fresh air would keep him from getting sick. We took the bus to and from school ("there was to-ing and fro-ing" - thank you Kinyarwanda interpreters, the memory still cracks me up) because without two kids I was not going to push a two kid stroller and anyway Kiddo #1 is almost four and a half. Surely he can walk a bit. And he chose the bus over the subway because you can see what passes on a bus. We went to lunch at a couple of restaurants (not on the same day, obviously) and created astonishingly large messes in small amounts of time, prompting me to leave large, apologetic tips. We stopped and bought a squeezable, splat-able, stretchable sponge bob that created such jealousy in Kiddo #2 that despite his fever he threw himself on the floor, sweaty orange hair plastered to his head, and screamed, "Ponned Bob! Ponned Bob!" We stuck our feet into the side of EVERY SNOWBANK on our way to one restaurant 6 blocks away. That is a lot of snowbanks, by the way. We were Buzz Lightyear and Miranova trying to release the warmth in the cores of the snowbanks so all the snow would melt.

Now there is almost no more snow and a long weekend of actual days of freedom (presidents of the US, I thank you profusely for your day) and the sun is shiningly lovely and I'm going to get my hair cut with free neck and shoulder massage. Ha.

13 February 2006

splenda is a mistake

I'm trying reeeeeeeeally hard not to eat sugary things because I despise the drilling in the dentist's office and he tells me that some members of my family get cavities so fast that he can't keep up with them, but I have to say that sugar-free hazelnut syrup in the latte and splenda in the tea latte just do not make the same yummy taste as sugar does. tasteless blechness.

10 February 2006

i like big cars

I feel much safer in them because if I crash or flip over or lose control, there's so much more between me and the road/tree/embankment/overpass. I have an extreme paranoia about the dangers of cars, particularly on highways because they are so fast which makes no sense because highways are so much safer because you don't have intersections, but there you go. When I used to drive alot, in Rwanda, I felt safer than I do now, which I think was a function of several things:
  1. I knew the vehicle
  2. The vehicle was big
  3. I knew the roads

In Rwanda there are no speed limits. Sometimes a cop would flag me down and tell me to drive more "doucement," which I understood even if I understood little else of what he said. One would think that the natural result of this lack of speed limitage would be that I would become a faster driver, but in fact that has not been the case. This is partly because of my extreme paranoia about the dangers of cars - saw too many horrible crashes like the one of dead bodies strewn beside the road that prompted Safari to say, "C'est presque normal ici" - It's almost normal here. It is also partly because I actually learned how to drive in Rwanda. You don't really need to know how to drive in the US. Everyone is so predictable. They stop when they ought, they drive near the speed limit, they stay in their lanes. You learn how to drive, really how to drive and drive defensively, when you round a curve knowing that you are likely to find, in the middle of it, that your lane is completely taken up by an oncoming bus the size of a Greyhound, on the wrong side of the road, leaning over on two wheels, and the only place to get away from it is a ditch three feet deep with no guardrails and a mountain going straight up beyond it. This very bus once had to swerve so suddenly out of my lane that I kept turning around for kilometers to make sure that it had righted itself and not plunged down the cliff on the other side of the road. Finally, far behind me, I saw it rounding the other side of the valley and I knew it was okay.

The point is that when I drove in the US before Rwanda, I spent most of my time watching the speedometer. My biggest fear was getting pulled over. Now my biggest fear is dying or killing someone because cars are dangerous beasts, so I don't look at the speedometer much anymore. But when I do, I'm always surprised to find that I'm going almost exactly the speed limit. Apparently my brain, which has been reprogramed to drive at a safe speed rather than the posted speed, has the same idea for a safe speed as the people who designed the road. I also find that my speed varies much less. I look at the speedometer on the highway and I'm going 75. Ten miles later, I look at it again and I'm going, again, exactly 75. It says something to me about trusting our instincts rather than all the constant information we get from outside. Somehow my brain knows how fast it's safe to drive.

08 February 2006

new york, new york

Getting to school this morning was a maze of obstacles. There were police lines (do not cross) apparently for construction sites, flooded corners, restaurants remodeling with huge stacks of wood on the sidewalk, bucket trucks (keep back) putting up new signs, sidewalks closed (use other side)- which happens to be flooded. For a few minutes, I thought I might not make it to school. Every way was blocked.


One morning when we were walking through Miraflores to class in Honduras, near the beginning of our semester there, I heard Daniel talking to another student, saying, "You have to learn the third world walk. Look at [amazedlife]. See how she WATCHES HER FEET? That's how you have to walk. You never know what is coming."

06 February 2006

i am an anime character

I went to the eye doctor today and she dumped yellow drops into my eyes, which oozed out over the next few hours and stung like mad. When I went to the bathroom an hour later, I looked in the mirror and saw that my eyes were a rim of blue around a huge black hole, like an eclipse. I wanted to show it to people but there was no one to show in the bathroom. So when I found M and DTL, I pointed it out to them and they were impressed. "You look like an anime character!" DTL said. And then, less flatteringly, "Have you been rolling?" Erm. NO.

05 February 2006

you know how sometimes you think you've figured something out

and then it turns out that really you had no idea? i have no idea.

03 February 2006

a few of my favorite things

These are my simple pleasures as of today, not my big-picture favorite things. Listed at random:
  1. coconut tea. i try to drink other teas just for variety, but my heart is always with the coconut.
  2. kitty cats (Birka and Julius).
  3. a warm january with sunshine.
  4. new khakis. those who have known my previous khakis may find them remarkably similar, but the store that rhymes with snap decided to make different cuts - thus eliminating the "the waist on these is too small and the hips too big" problem i always have. plus they had longs IN THE STORE, for which they own my everlasting gratitude (until the next time that they fail to have them). so now i have khakis that are long enough. i'm in love.
  5. swimming pools.
  6. my classes. this week ONLY. for some reason, my classes have all been fantastic this week. in corporations, we read the punctilio case. in cultural diversity, we got into a heated discussion about protecting culture. in con law, we argued about subsidies and environmental protections.
  7. these two little boys.
  8. the business day and metro sections of the nytimes, in hard copy. for some reason those are my favorites.
  9. dateable men.
  10. finally starting to be able to sleep on my back with the arm braces on. (i was sleep deprived for a while because it was so hard to fall asleep or stay asleep on my back.)
Yay! Favorite right-now things. Happy days.

02 February 2006

in which i join new activities with both successes and failures

I have a new favorite sport, but I hesitate to tell you. I'm actually kind of embarrassed about it. Remember how I tried yoga and it caused great pain to my wooden arms? (Too many of the poses involve leaning on your arms. Also people are so SERIOUS about it. It did NOT start at the beginning, it started with people who knew what they were doing standing on their heads. And big words in other languages apparently indicating standing on your head but which were not explained to us. I was so confused that it was like living as a practical joke.)

I had to pick something else instead and my criteria were as follows:

1. not hurt the arms
2. cardio (in combination with some sculpting is better yet)
3. something i enjoy so i actually go to it
4. approximately 1.386 million time constraints (class, babysitting, THAT ONE IS JUST TOO EARLY IN THE MORNING sorts of constraints).

So I found one. And I went. Kind of embarrassedly. But I LOVED it. I loved it. It was everything I wanted and more.

It is... well... water aerobics.

What? That's too small to read? Oh, fine, it's water aerobics. Water aerobics, okay? And it's FUN. No, there are no old women. there are me and a college student and two middle aged women and anyway you can just do it faster if you need to work harder, so that's what I do. But water aerobics is exactly like playing in the water as a kid. You skip. You hop. You jumping jack. You float on noodles while doing leg motions. And it's all GOOD for you! Who knew? I have never outgrown thinking it's fun to jump over a noodle in the water about 100 times, so this is perfect for me. Fun fun fun, all the time fun! (for 55 minutes twice a week). I love water aerobics.

The other class I joined is West African dance. There is no way to describe how terrible I am at West African dance. Ten years in Liberia embued me with no skill whatsoever. And I have not the butt for it. I cannot wiggle my butt independently of the rest of my body. The teacher made me stop using my arms so that I could attempt to get the feet and butt right. With no success at all. Did I mention that I can't dance, I mean, any kind of dancing? Dancing that requires rhythm and unique body movements is never going to be easy for me. Once Kabera tried to teach me a Congolese dance at the Guest House. HAHAHAHAHA. I couldn't learn it.

Even though I came late to West African dance because of another meeting, my body hurts all over from moving in new and unexpected ways. But it was fun, except for the embarrassment. I'm going to keep going. I plan to beat a rhythm into myself. Must. Learn. To. Dance.

These gym classes are the best thing ever.


Why do I keep hearing a horse clopping by outside my window?